EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- When students head out to school, the first person they see each day is the school bus driver. That encounter has created a special bond for an Eau Claire bus driver and a student.
After spending nearly 30 years as a firefighter, Rick Krause wanted a part time job that would be fun, so he started driving a school bus. But he had no idea the impact that one of his riders in particular would make on his life.
"I have two routes, Delong Middle School and then I have Putnum,” Rick said. Each day, he drives dozens of kids to and from school. “I found if you give kids respect at any age, they give it back to you, I don't care if they are 5 or 15, it works out good,” he said.
Last year, he created an unbreakable bond with one of his students. “When you have people like Ari on the bus it's awesome,” he said. As Ari Peggs started kindergarten, she made a new friend on the bus. “He just embraced her, cared about her and that means more than any parent could ask for,” said Ashley Peggs, Ari’s mom.
He often went the extra mile for Ari. "When we had those huge snow banks last year, he went and changed his routes so that we went around the other way to pick her up in our driveway so she wouldn't have to cross because she couldn't be seen over all of those big mounds of snow,” Ashley added.
Each day, she would give him a hug as she got on and off the bus. "She is the best hugger in the world,” Rick said.
Now in first grade, Ari moved schools and no longer has rick as her bus driver. "We will see him out in the community and she will run up and give him a big hug and be so excited and it's priceless, it really is,” Ashley said.
For Ari's 7th birthday she had a party that was the theme of her favorite book, "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus." And driving the bus for her birthday party was her favorite bus driver, Rick. "When I got on, I was waiting for Ari to see me and just like old times, like she was on my bus yesterday came right up, jumped in my arms and gave me a big hug, it's like we never missed a beat,” Rick said.
The pair bonded on the bus and continue to make memories even though they don't see each other every day. "You are the best bus driver, thank you for surprising me,” Ari said as she read a note for Rick.